Purpose: Physicians who are primary care providers in rural communities form an essential stakeholder group in rural mobile health (mHealth) delivery. This study was exploratory in nature and was conducted in Udupi district of Karnataka, India. The purpose of this study is to examine the perceptions of rural medical officers (MOs) (rural physicians) regarding the benefits and challenges of mobile phone use by community health workers (CHWs). Design/methodology/approach: In-depth interviews were conducted among 15 MOs belonging to different primary health centers of the district. Only MOs with a minimum five years of experience were recruited in the study using purposive and snowball sampling. This was followed by thematic analysis of the data collected. Findings: The perceptions of MOs regarding the CHWs' use of mobile phones were largely positive. However, they reported the existence of some challenges that limits the potential of its full use. The findings were categorized under four themes namely, benefits of mobile phone use to CHWs, benefits of mobile phone-equipped CHWs, current mobile phone use by CHWs and barriers to CHWs' mobile phone use. The significant barriers reported in the CHWs' mobile phone use were poor mobile network coverage, technical illiteracy, lack of consistent technical training and call and data expense of the CHWs. The participants recommend an increased number of mobile towers, frequent training in mobile phone use and basic English language for the CHWs as possible solutions to the barriers. Originality/value: Studies examining the perceptions of doctors who are a primary stakeholder group in mHealth as well as in the public health system scenario are limited. To the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the first studies to examine the perception of rural doctors regarding CHWs' mobile phone use for work in India.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health